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Rhodri Davies - Over Shadows

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Artist: Rhodri Davies

Album: Over Shadows

Label: Confront

Review date: Apr. 3, 2008

Welsh harpist Rhodri Davies took the name Over Shadows from Redell Olsen’s book Secure Portable Space. Perhaps he wants us to read the tome, but its title alone suggests an approach route to this austere yet beautiful piece. For compact discs are nothing if not portable, and the marvel of the music encoded on this one derives from the way it opens portals onto dimensions of inner and external space.

Davies performed it in 2004 and composed it in 2006. I don’t think that’s a typo, but a reflection of how important post-production is to the final shape and sound of this solo composition. Davies didn’t just apply e-bows to his harp’s strings, although that’s his only mode of attack here; he has layered and arranged their vibrations with subtle care. In the spirit of works like Cor Fuhler’s “Stengam” and Alvin Lucier’s “Music On A Long Thin Wire,” Davies works exclusively with long tones, some pure, some beating. Although his sounds are acoustic in provenance, their effect is reminiscent of French electronic composer Eliane Radigue’s music, which is to say that it both invites and enhances a meditational mind-state.

Davies enhances this effect by slowly thinning the music’s density, moving from oscillating pulses to thin, adjacent filaments stretched across silence, and ultimately to no sound at all. It’s as though he’s taken you into a room and shut everything out. Then he starts opening shades so the light comes in a ray or two at a time, gradually brightening and then dulling as the day progresses, and winking out into silence once more after 36 sublime minutes. When it’s done, the only thing that sounds better is nothing at all.

By Bill Meyer

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